André François-Poncet (13 June 1887, Provins, Seine-et-Marne – 8 January 1978) was a French politician and diplomat whose post as ambassador to Germany allowed him to witness first-hand the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, and the Nazi regime's preparations for World War II.
François-Poncet was the son of a counselor of the Court of Appeals in Paris. A student of German studies at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, his first area of study was journalism. One of François-Poncet's early written works included observations made during several journeys to the German Empire in the years prior to World War I. During the war, he served as an infantry lieutenant.
Between 1917 and 1919, he was assigned to the press office of the French embassy in Bern, Switzerland and later served with the International Economic Mission in the United States and in other diplomatic roles under a series of French leaders.
He served as a delegate to the League of Nations, and, in August 1931, was named undersecretary of state and ambassador to Weimar Germany. From his post in Berlin, François-Poncet witnessed the rise of Hitler, and later observed the signs of Germany's plans for World War II. The insightful François-Poncet was described by American journalist William Shirer in his The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as "the best informed ambassador in Berlin", but the French government generally did not heed the ambassador's many warnings about Hitler's intentions. François-Poncet was inadvertently involved in the purge of the Night of the Long Knives when, in Hitler's justification for the killings, he referred to a dinner François-Poncet had attended with Ernst Röhm and Kurt von Schleicher as evidence that the men had been conspiring with the French to overthrow the German government. As this evidence was manufactured, François-Poncet himself was never named nor charged with anything.
Shortly after the Munich Agreement was signed in 1938, François-Poncet left his post as French ambassador to Germany after a farewell visit to Hitler at the Eagle's Nest on 18 October 1938. He was then reassigned to Rome as ambassador to Fascist Italy. He served in that position until 1940 when Italy declared war to France.
In 1949, he was named French high commissioner to West Germany, a position which was later elevated to ambassador. François-Poncet served in this capacity until 1955. He was later vice president and president of the French Red Cross. In 1952, he was elected to the Académie française, taking the seat previously occupied by Marshal Philippe Petain.
Occasionally contributing to the French newspaper Le Figaro, François-Poncet wrote numerous books, several based on his experience as French ambassador to Germany in the 1930s and reflecting his lifelong interest in Germany. At least one of his works, Souvenirs d’une ambassade à Berlin, published in France in 1946, was translated to English as The Fateful Years: Memoirs of a French Ambassador in Berlin, 1931-1938 in 1949.
- Bennett, John (1967). The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918–1945, p. 327
- Larson, Erik (2011). In the Garden of Beasts, chapter 51
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